In the early days of Astros’ baseball (the writer came here shortly after the move from Colt .45s to Astros), any TV appearance was must-see TV. Back in the ’60s, the Astros’ appearances on the TV were few and very far between. For a few years, their only appearance on local TV was Sunday road games or very occasional appearances on the Game of the Week, not due to their performance, but because the Astrodome was a perfect back up site for the main game in case rain came through.
Over time the TV coverage morphed into what we see these days with baseball on TV for every game of the season. So, during this time, the eyes of the fans were more choosy. They were not watching every game, and inside those games, they were not watching every inning or every at bat. So, the idea of “Must See” TV came about over time, even if it was unspoken.
- In the early days of more TV coverage (and these days, my feeble brain does not remember exactly when that occurred, but I believe it was early to mid-’70s), Cesar Cedeno used to be my Must See Astro. With that Power-Speed combo, you were not sure if you were going to see a home run, a bunt single/ stolen base “double”, or a spectacular catch in the outfield.
- Towards the late ’70s, this morphed over to a must-see pitcher, and that pitcher was J.R. Richard. He was such an imposing giant of a man with the killer combination of overwhelming fastball paired with a totally devastating slider. While the fans loved to watch his outings, the opponents would rather see just about anyone else on the mound.
- The early ’80s brought the Astros’ first successful playoff run….and Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express was must-see TV as you never knew what he might bring to the game, whether it was hitting a home run in his first start for the home team, taking over the lead in career strikeouts or throwing his record-breaking 5th no-hitter.
- In the mid to late ’80’s the must-see Astro was pitcher Mike Scott as he at times was the most dominant pitcher in the game, winning the Cy Young and clinching the 1986 pennant with a no-hitter and coming within one start that never happened of leading the team to their first World Series. And those rumors of his split-finger having a little extra relish on it? Just rumors as far as we were concerned.
- The ’90s were dominated by two Astros, who both at times were Must See TV. Whether it was seeing whether Craig Biggio could get out of the first without a hustle induced dirty uniform or watching Jeff Bagwell launch a moon shot with that unbelievably spread out batting stance, they both gave fans plenty of reasons to watch them play. Did we know they would end up being the Astros first real entrants in the Hall of Fame? We did not care as they both gave us something to love almost every game.
- For the stretch run of the 1998 season, Randy Johnson, the Big Unit, was must-see TV all by himself. After the trade from Seattle, he won 10 of his 11 starts while compiling a microscopic 1.28 ERA and leading the team to their most wins (102) up to that time. World Series fever ran high, but they were cut down by Kevin Brown and the Padres in the NLDS.
- For most of the “Oughts”, two players were Must See for the Astros. Lance Berkman had a Jeff Bagwell bat with the ability to continue that production in the playoffs. On the pitching mound, Roy Oswalt was the one to watch as he shined from his first call up. They led them to their first playoff success and their first World Series appearance.
- The first part of the “Teens” was dominated by either Can’t See TV or Don’t Want to Watch TV. The Astros were totally torn down to become the worse team in baseball while also being undermined by local TV contract negotiations that kept them off of many TV sets back then and even some to this very day.
- Let’s face it the Astros between 2015 and 2019 were Must See TV as a team as they were one of the best teams in baseball during this time. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Carlos Correa were part of a core that was so much fun to watch every day. Between 2017 and 2019, first Justin Verlander and then Justin and Gerrit Cole were pitchers who were bringing Cy Young caliber outings almost every time to the mound.
- In the second half of 2019, if you had a pulse as a baseball fan, you had to watch the at-bats of wunderkind Yordan Alvarez. His combination of awesome power and the ability to make contact made every at bat Must See TV.
- 2020 was a tougher season to watch as the team stumbled around, but when Kyle Tucker finally found his footing, it was a blast to watch him to see if he would steal another base or whack a gapper and leg out a triple or put one over the fence.
So…..here are the questions for you.
- Over the years, who has been must-see TV for you with the Astros?
- Who will be Must See TV for you in 2021?
- Looking into the future, is there anyone coming up that you think will be on your must-see list in years to come?